Microsoft has opened talks with European cloud trade body CISPE in a bid to resolve its concerns about the company’s licensing terms.

The tech giant is seeking an agreement with CISPE, which counts European cloud providers such as OVHCloud and Aruba, as well as Amazon’s AWS, among its members, in a bid to avoid a potential antitrust investigation by the European Union.

Microsoft Azure
Microsoft is in dispute with European cloud providers – Sebastian Moss

CISPE filed a complaint with the EU’s Directorate General for Competition in November 2022, querying changes Microsoft had made to its licensing terms. These stipulated that clients using Microsoft Office 365 and its other productivity tools would need to buy an additional license to run them on a third-party cloud provider.

This was a move to try and convince customers to switch over to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and away from its two biggest rivals in the public cloud – AWS and Google Cloud – but the charge also applied to all other European cloud providers too, something which CISPE contends hands Microsoft an unfair advantage at the expense of its smaller competitors.

Following CISPE’s complaint, Microsoft said it would change its terms so the additional licensing requirement only applied to AWS, Google Cloud, and the cloud services provided by Chinese tech giant Alibaba.

Now further talks are set to take place between the parties to try and address all the association’s concerns.

A CISPE statement released this week said: “As the foundation for discussions, CISPE has reiterated that any remedies and resolution must apply across the sector and to be accessible to all cloud customers in Europe. Furthermore, any agreements will be made public, subject to scrutiny and monitoring by third parties.

“The process is at an early stage, and it remains uncertain whether these discussions will yield effective remedies to the alleged anti-competitive practices. To ensure swift and effective progress, CISPE has stipulated that substantive progress must be achieved in the first quarter of 2024.”

The association’s director general Francisco Mingorance added: “Every passing day without resolution further undermines the viability of Europe’s cloud infrastructure sector and restricts the cloud options available to European customers.

“We are supportive of a fast and effective resolution to these harms but reiterate that it is Microsoft which must end its unfair software licensing practices to deliver this outcome.”

DCD has contacted Microsoft for comment on the talks.